When our loved ones pass away, we only get one chance to say goodbye.
When Marines pass away, they are buried with honor. When they’re buried at Arlington National Cemetery, it’s Corporal Jesse Beckwith from Toronto, Ohio who helps their family say goodbye.
“We treat every funeral like it’s our last one,” Cpl. Beckwith said. “The family only gets one.”
Cpl. Beckwith spends hours training to help others say their final farewell.
“Our mission statement is to perform flawless funerals,” Jesse explained. “The training that goes behind every funeral we do, it’s hours and hours of training just to perfect a single position that you’re doing on the casket.”
He is one of an elite group of Body Bearers, chosen for their characteristics, maturity, strength and body type.
In fact, Jesse told 7News there are only nine Marine Corps Body Bearers.
“We have a 50% attrition rate, so half the guys that come to our school end up getting dropped either because they can’t take the stress of the job and the training or injuries happen,” Jesse continued.
There are also physical standards Marines must meet to be chosen. Each Body Bearer must complete 10 repetitions each of 225 pound bench press, 135 pound military press, 115 pound curl and 315 pound squat.
Jesse explained that his group spends hours training on six different spots on the casket. In fact, he said it takes four to five months to perfect a single position.
Marines are the only branch of the military to carry with six people and at shoulder height, which accounts for the rigorous physical standards.
All the training culminates in several funerals with military precision at Arlington National Cemetery, and at surrounding cemeteries, each day.
“These are Marines that are retired, or active duty funerals,” Jesse said. “We also do dependents for Marines, so Marine family members and stuff like that every day.”
“I’m just like really proud of him,” added Samantha Beckwith, Jesse’s wife. “I know how hard he’s worked to get where he’s at. It’s just an honor to be his wife and get to see that that’s what he does everyday.”
The pride and love Jesse has for his job is evident mere moments after he starts speaking.
Recently millions across the country witnessed Jesse’s dedication, as he helped lay Senator John McCain and President George H.W. Bush to rest.
“It is really nerve wracking,” Jesse said of the experience.
With all eyes on the National Cathedral, Jesse proudly represented the Marines.
“Phase back into all the training and rehearsals you did and it just kind of comes natural after that,” he continued.
Closer to home, proud eyes watched him closely; his wife and young son Dawson Zeke.
“It’ll be really fun to tell him like that his dad’s like a part of history,” Samantha said.
And his mom and dad, Tiffany and Shawn Beckwith.
“We’re really proud of him,” Shawn said. “We keep all the little paper clips. We’ve recorded all the ceremonies that he’s done and everything like that, so really proud.”
Jesse said he submitted several times before he was selected to be a Body Bearer. He has been in the Marines for three and a half years and was deployed to the Middle East for several months prior to this position.
He said he will continue to consider it an honor to be chosen.
“The family gets one funeral. That’s it. They don’t get another one, so that’s your opportunity to show the family what you do and how the military works for just for one day,” Jesse continued. “If they don’t know anything about the military, that’s their only opportunity that they get to see of it.”
Jesse and his dad Shawn share a bond not only as family, but as Marines. Jesse said that was part of why he wanted to join.
You’ll hear from Shawn’s story of service in his own words in the next Veterans Voices in two weeks.
Photos of military funerals in the new story are courtesy of Sharon Valencia.